In our day to day lives, we can all get bogged down with what we’re not doing rather than what we are. This can give us a false impression of the progress we’ve made and can obscure how far we have come.
The pandemic and the new working from home culture that has evolved from it has disrupted the balance between work and downtime, and for many of us, on furlough or spending more time at home, the pressure to fit something in at every hour of the day can be a lot.
When you’re not doing anything particularly ‘productive’, it can be easy to beat yourself up about it. But I’m here to remind you that progress isn’t linear. If it were, we’d all be where we want to be, instantaneously. Primarily, this is because life is inherently unpredictable. There will be days that are written off for a myriad of reasons, or even years, depending on everyone’s personal situation.
So don’t get down in the dumps if you are not where you want to be yet — and instead — focus on where you are right now and what you have done.
Often, I can get down in the dumps about being behind in my career and the fact I’ve spent nearly every day at home since March 2020. On bad days, I can take to social media and compare myself to people (especially those younger than me) and marvel and their positions. But then I remember how important this abundance of free time has been for me.
If it weren’t for the pandemic, I probably would have launched into some graduate job I wasn’t that keen on, never discovered my love for writing, and my anxiety would have spiralled. Although I may not be where I thought I would be by this age, there are other things I have achieved that I am proud of, especially when I make an effort to reflect on how far I’ve come.
Take my writing as one example. On the left is my total reach from just two months of writing on Medium. On the right, after eight months, is what it looks like today.
I’m having a bit of a rough time with my writing now, especially on Medium. But when I look at that side by side, I realise just how much progress I have made. It puts everything into perspective. I can guarantee you’re making progress in whatever you are doing, but perhaps, you don’t realise it yet.
As local elections are on the horizon here in the UK, I’m reminded of how much was lost when Thomas Mair murdered Jo Cox during the Brexit referendum campaign. Jo’s life and her approach to politics should be a reminder to us all that regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum, we do have more in common than what sets us apart.
Politics should be less divisive and binary, and it is a shame in recent years that it has become this way.
‘Jo Cox’s selfless service to others made the world a better place’ — Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States
The highs and lows of my first week studying the NCTJ via distance learning.
I had been thinking about doing an NCTJ Diploma (National Council for the Training of Journalists) for a long time, but I think the experience of lockdown 3 finally pushed me over the edge to take the plunge and start.
Training to be a journalist is no easy feat and undertaking this whilst we’re still in a pandemic is even more problematic. But I figured doing this would definitely be a story to tell.
Like any natural journalist, I’ve decided to document the process and this stage in my life. Hopefully, it will be useful for people considering taking the first steps into the industry or considering a career change. It will also be a nice documentation for me to look back on in the future when I’ve hopefully ‘made’ it.
After ordering my materials and enrolling a few weeks ago, I thought I’d take some time to pause and reflect on my experience so far. In this post, I’ll be discussing why I opted to go down this route, what I’m currently studying and how I’ve found the process so far.
If you would prefer to watch or listen to me talk about this, I did make a video documenting my first week. But a quick disclaimer — I have no desire to be a broadcast journalist or go down the TV route — writing is very much my medium of choice. Still, I’m enjoying the process of trying something new and experimenting with editing.
What Is an Nctj and Why Did I Decide to Do it?
First of all, the NCTJ Level 5 Diploma is pretty much an industry standard, you don’t need it to become a journalist, but it’s beneficial if you’re starting from scratch like me.
It covers important topics like media law, public affairs, shorthand (optional) and the essential skills you need to become a journalist. My degree is in History, and whilst this is useful to some extent — the only experience I have in journalism is in student media. To apply to journalism jobs and enter the industry, I felt that this could potentially hold me back without having some formal qualification in the field.
Why distance learning
You can do an NCTJ qualification as part of some integrated masters or with an organisation like News Associates or the Press Association. A few years ago, after attending a talk from PA at university, I applied for one of their courses, went for interviews, got a place and was going to take it up. However, affordability was an issue for me and having to commute to London five times a week.
Essentially, doing the NCTJ via distance learning was the only financially viable option for me, as you pay per module and don’t have to pay a lump fee to secure your place. Additionally, I won’t be having to pay for the commuting into London. Also, with everything still happening with the pandemic, even if I had opted to study the NCTJ at a centre, most of my learning would be remote anyway.
It may be a slower pace than the traditional route, as it is meant to be studied alongside full or part-time work, but personally, I would rather take my time and complete it within 1 year than pack it all into a few months.
To wrap up, affordability, convenience, and practicality were reasons I decided to do the NCTJ via distance learning.
What I’m Studying — including Modules & Assessment
The NCTJ program via distance learning is compiled of mandatory skills modules which include: essential journalism, ethics and regulation, media law and the e-portfolio. When you enrol, you have the option to purchase these all in a bundle at a lower cost than paying for them individually, so that’s what I decided to start with.
As well as completing the mandatory ones, you also get to choose between a range of more specialist modules, including court reporting, data journalism and public affairs. But I haven’t got that far yet; I aim to get the core modules under my belt first.
Ethics & regulation
This module essentially consists of some of the ethical issues that arise from reporting, attaining evidence and gaining interviews and is heavily influenced by the Levenson inquiry and phone hacking scandal.
As part of the module and assessment, you have to learn the IPSO (Independent Press Standards Organisation) Editor’s Code of Practice, which basically sets out what a journalist can publish and how to attain that information. It’s a set of editorial standards that publications in the UK (if they chose to be part of IPSO) have to adhere to. It takes a bit of getting your head around at first, but I found most of the module’s content to be pretty straightforward.
I’ve already booked my IPSO Editor’s code exam for April, as it’s multiple choice and only takes half an hour. I’m looking forward to getting that under my belt to focus on more of the hefty modules. I managed to get through most of the content for this in a week, as it’s a relatively small module (only worth 3 credits out of 82 for the entire course) — but it is assessed throughout the other mandatory modules too.
Overall, I enjoyed studying this module as I learned about the theory, issues, and problems that can arise from reporting and put that into practice with case study examples and some more present-day ones.
I can already feel this module becoming my nemesis. It is a hefty one, which makes up 10 credits as opposed to 3. I only started it this week, so I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all, but I can totally see how important it is for journalists to know about the law — as they could easily be sued for defamation or libel.
As someone coming from a non-law background with minimal knowledge about how the court systems work, it is a lot to take in at first. I feel the 2 and a half hour exam will be tough, but it’s made me realise how important it is to know about this stuff as journalists with platforms and responsibilities.
An Overview of What the First Few Weeks Were like
Before I actually opened the textbook and started studying, I did feel overwhelmed. Unlike traditional face to face (or virtual teaching), doing the course via distance learning means you don’t have anyone to structure your learning for you.
I had to spend quite a lot of time figuring out the modules, how the course worked and what to start with. I’m also lucky enough to be part of a distance learning group chat, so I turned to them for advice. But it was hard to have no guidance on this — especially when it’s something you are so used to having in formal education. However, after a bit of work, the course did start to make sense, and I don’t feel confused anymore — which was good.
I’m very glad I started with ethics and regulation as that eased me in, it’s not an overly complicated module, and the assessment is pretty lenient too, so I would suggest (if you are looking to do this course and are feeling lost) to start with that. Media law is another topic altogether, and I will have more thoughts on it as the weeks progress.
In terms of support — we get one hour of tutor time for every module, but they are incredibly responsive to emails and have been super helpful. I had some problems with the links in my documents and got a rapid response after contacting someone about it. Although obviously, it’s hard not to have that constant support, tutors are always there when you need them — and so is the group chat!
Last week wasn’t a great week to be a trainee journalist
But it isn’t all blue skies. I started my course amidst Piers Morgan’s coverage of the interview between Meghan Markle and Prince Harry (which was diabolical). Seeing certain people online agree with the broadcaster was infuriating. It corresponded with the very week I was studying the ethics of journalism, and it angered me that so many people couldn’t see how his dismissal of Meghan’s suicidal feelings wasn’t damaging and sets a dangerous precedent for how we think about mental health.
And that week also corresponded with Sarah Everard’s kidnapping from London and the outpouring of women’s experience of sexual assault, rape, and mistreatment all over social media. It was a heavy news week and being inclined to read the news and engage with it as I am, I spent so much time on Twitter and felt compelled to keep up.
It made me question whether I could cope with the news cycle’s heaviness and the constant pressures to stay online and up to date. But then I realised that all journalists are human and take time off (without feeling guilty) all the time.
All in all, I’ve had a very positive experience of my first few weeks studying the NCTJ from home. It is far harder than opting to study it at a centre, as there’s no constant guidance to get you started — but once you’ve taken time to get to grips with the course, it’s fine.
I plan to get as many of the theory modules under my belt as possible, so I can then focus on doing the e-portfolio and getting placements — which will be the most difficult part, considering we’re still in a pandemic. But I’m hoping as the months go on that restrictions will ease and things will get easier to organise.
Next week might be a slightly different story as I progress with media law and the complexity and heaviness that it brings, but I’ll make sure to keep it real and keep you up to date with my progress.
This was originally published on March 18, 2021 at Medium.com
As an overthinker, it can be easy to get distracted from the present moment. Too often I find myself paralysed with fear about the next few years, or even weeks, which detracts me from just being. It’s hard to overcome, but of late I’ve been more successful.
Tuning in with myself every morning by writing a few pages in my journal has allowed the worries I may feel to slip to one side. It doesn’t cure them, nor eradicate them, but it means that I can have a day where all my energy isn’t solely dissipated on that.
But it is in these very moments of stillness – that have become even more abundant in the second lockdown we are now living through – that I have experienced joy, a sense of peace and calamity. I’ve never been one for mass excitement, big gatherings or celebrations, as I’d much rather be with just a few people or even curled up by myself with a good book. However, during this pandemic, I have gained so much from just being.
Whether that be sitting still and listening to the sounds around me – the cry of the birds, the hum of gentle traffic – or slowly making my way through a book at my own pace. Or even, sitting in silence in the same room as my partner as we both do our own thing. Just being in the moment, recognising it and making peace with it without worrying about the future, has been, and continues to be, a great comfort for me.
Maybe I sound like an old lady way beyond my time. But maybe I don’t. During an age of mass excess, at least, the pandemic appears to have made our lives simpler. The allocation of more time spent at home has allowed some of us to spend more time with ourselves, figure out what we love and strip things back down to the basics. And isn’t this what life is really about? If we don’t know what the simple things we love in life are, then what are we striving for? In the same vein – overcomplication can often lead to apprehension and depreciation.
Taking time to be at peace and appreciate the moment instead of worrying about the future, is something I’ve learnt to recognise and started to practice this year. It’s helped me to become more present, mindful and at peace with myself.
I’m still not sure what my future holds, or where I’ll end up, but for once, I’m okay with that. I’m not having sleepless nights panicking about what kind of grand career I haven’t planned out for myself, but am, for now, content with the beauty of being. And just surviving in this thing called life. This doesn’t mean I’ve stagnated – in fact, I have a myriad of ideas. Ideas I would never have dreamed up if it wasn’t for lockdown.
I’m not sure what this post was meant to be, or quite where I was going with it. I just came on here to say hello and that I’m still here on this blog, from time to time. But I knew that I wanted to write about what I felt in this moment – which was a deep sense of inner peace, from just being.
If you’re reading this, I hope you take a moment to just be. Soak it all in, and try not to worry about tomorrow or the next day. As now is all we have.
From the moment I woke up, until well into the evening, the rain has been constant and unrelenting.
But I don’t mind, I’ve always been someone who finds great comfort in the gentle pattering of raindrops on the windows. It makes me feel cosy, I can wear a jumper and indulge in hot drinks without breaking a sweat.
When the alarm went off this morning, I thought it must be a joke because it looked like the dead of the night. The sky was a dark blue and the only glimmer of light came from a flickering lamppost in the distance. Reluctantly, I dragged myself out of bed and went to make some coffee.
Today I’ve felt sleepy and a little demotivated, but I still managed to get my words done and have ended up writing over 3,000 in total.
I’ve started to do a morning ritual exercise called “Morning pages” that I’ve only just learned about. Instead of doing it by hand, I’m using a website called 750 words. The idea is that more or less as soon as you wake up you just write about what comes into your head straight away. It’s a bit like stream of consciousness journaling, I’m quite enjoying it and find that it gets the cogs turning before I settle down to do anything else.
I chose to exercise from home today, as Covid-19 cases are dramatically increasing in recent days and we were put into Tier 2 last week. The gym does feel safe, but from now on I’m going to limit my access more. And as today was rainy, I didn’t particularly want to go out and walk to the gym in it as I’d be soaked before I got there.
If all goes to plan, I should be back to work by November so I’m trying to get as much written as I can, so I have things to post alongside working. Although I expect to be working fewer hours than I was on previously, and if Boris orders a circuit breaker, then I guess the whole return would be halted.
If you’re in the UK and feeling a sense of dread due to the handling of this crisis, I can truly emphasize. But we must stay positive. I hope this finds readers optimistic, despite the hardship and difficulty that living through this time is.
I had a dry patch earlier on in the month and I couldn’t for the life of me stomach the courage to write. Well – write what I wanted to at least. This came at a time when I got my first batch of copywriting work on a freelance basis, and all my energy was going into that, so I guess it makes sense.
After having a terrible Sunday where I didn’t accomplish anything – today I’m back in the saddle and have written over 2,000 words AND done some more copywriting work. It’s funny how the days go, isn’t it? Sometimes you have a day where all you want to do is work, and then other’s, you don’t want to get out of bed. Well, that’s what I find anyway.
Two article’s I wrote on Medium were accepted into publications today and published too, which makes me happy. One of them is about my journey with reading and where it all started, and the other is about what writers can do when they have a day where they don’t feel like writing. Hey, maybe I should be taking some of my advice…
Today has been a good day and reminded me of what I can achieve when I put my mind to it. I’ve had some meaningful conversations with other writers, done some exercise and felt positive overall. Additionally, I haven’t been lured in by the false promises of my phone and social media – which is always a plus.
Last week I took a whole week off social media, completely cold turkey, and it caused me to think about a lot of things. In that time away from it, I realised I wasn’t gaining anything from being on Instagram and following the lives of strangers, who I didn’t care about. So I deleted my account altogether, and now only have my writing one where I follow bookstagram accounts and read other reviews.
If social media is making you come away feeling more negative than before you went in, I’d recommend taking some time away to reflect on how it makes you feel when it’s not there. I’ll be writing an article about my experience shortly, so watch this space.
I guess it always feels good to start a new week off on a positive note. I hope everyone has had a good day and achieved all they wanted to. And if they didn’t, then that’s okay too. Tomorrow is a new day.
Do tell me if you like these journal style blog posts, I love writing them (and reading other people’s) so let me know what you think.